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What to do with ‘The Ashes’ of the FIFA World Cup

In 1882, England lost a test cricket match at the Oval to Australia and The Sporting Times wrote a mock obituary declaring the defeat as the death of English cricket. It stated that ‘the body had been cremated and the ashes will be taken to Australia.’ The next English tour to Australia was then dubbed ‘the quest to regain the ashes’ and from there a great sporting tournament was spawned.

Now, this article has no hope of making anywhere near the same impact as the obituary in The Sporting Times all those years ago, but it does wish to make two similar points. Firstly, yesterday’s announcement that Russia and Qatar will, respectively, host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups signals the death of the FIFA World Cup and, secondly, a new tournament should be created in its place.

This may seem extreme but the fact that England’s bid received just one vote out of twenty-one FIFA officials (once you subtract England’s sole FIFA representative Geoff Thomas) shows that as long as the World Cup is preceded by the word ‘FIFA’, it can no longer be taken seriously.

To outline the multitude of strengths of the English bid would be pointless as everyone reading this will already be familiar with most of them. To compare the bid with that of Russia would be about as productive as comparing breathing with holding your breath indefinitely in a discussion about survival techniques.

And, yes, people may argue that a Russian World Cup would create a better legacy than if the competition were staged in England but that notion means that every positive feature a bidding country has would then count as a negative. On that basis, Team England should prepare for their next world cup bid by knocking down Wembley, Old Trafford and The Emirates Stadium. They should then sneak into parks and playgrounds all around the country armed with pins and burst the footballs young children are playing with. They could even rip up their premier League sticker books as well. Better still, ban football entirely from the country for a few years, make us all forget about it and then go to FIFA and present them with the legacy of bringing football to a country that doesn’t even play it. Although, on second thoughts, they are already doing that in 2022 so they might not want to repeat the trick.

The whole idea of legacy is, of course, complete rubbish. It’s an easy one-liner that allows FIFA to hand the tournament to whichever bid team has cut the most deals. It means that the comparative strengths of the rival bids can be simply dismissed on the notion that one will create a better ‘legacy’ than the other, something that cannot be proved one way or the other as we won’t know until after the tournament has been hosted. With Qatar in 2022, it must be some legacy FIFA has planned, given that the country has a population of just 1.7 million. The twelve planned stadiums for 2022 will have a combined capacity of approximately 500,000, almost a third of the country’s entire population. Needless to say, the stadiums, or what’s left of them after their top tiers are removed after the tournament, will hardly be thriving with spectators after the World Cup has been and gone.

The biggest legacy that Qatar will be left with is a crippling debt as billions of pounds, or Riyals if you are thinking of exchanging your money for a trip to the Arab state in twelve years time, will have been spent on artificially manufacturing a country that is fit to host the world cup. The cost to Russia, though dwarfed by what Qatar will need to spend, will also be huge as they attempt to build nine stadiums in eight years.

At least, in the case of Russia, the idea of legacy possesses more than an ounce of credibility but the fact that England gained just one out of twenty-one votes, despite all the bid’s obvious strengths, shows that FIFA as an organisation is inherently wrong. Actually, the fact that there were only twenty-one votes that England could compete for shows that the organisation is inherently wrong.

As there are so few voters, each vote carries far too much weigh. Rather than focusing on the strengths of their bids, the World Cup bidding teams spend their whole time winning and dinning FIFA’s executive members and playing friendlies in each member’s home country. A far bigger electorate, comprised of a fair number of independent arbiters, would make the whole process far harder to corrupt. Such changes are very unlikely to ever take place in the FIFA hierarchy, however, as they would never willingly relinquish any of their monopolised power.

One solution; therefore, would be for someone to form a rival to FIFA. An alternative organisation that hosts a new international tournament would certainly give Sepp Blatter and co. something to think about. The competition wouldn’t have to be huge to begin with. It could start, much as the World Cup did in 1930, as a small competition and grow over time. The first one could be staged in 2017, a year before the 2018 World Cup, with an open invitation being sent out to any nations that wanted to enter. To avoid any FIFA rulings, it could be declared a friendly tournament to begin with. If a few big nations agreed to play in it, it would certainly attract crowds and television and; therefore, make enough money to sustain itself. If the first one were a success, more could follow. Eventually, the competition could rival the World Cup and countries could decide to leave FIFA and join the new organisation or, more likely, a potential rival could scare FIFA into making the changes that must be made to their corrupt organisation. That would be a tournament with a true legacy.

So, with TV rights, supporter interest and a few big nations in the bag, all this breakaway tournament would need is a decent host. A country with stadiums that are already built and a public who would readily flock to the matches. Hmmm….I wonder who that could be…



  1. mendes

    December 3, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Good article. For me I thought the last world cup turned into a complete turnoff anyway. The Death Knell has been sounded – Russia possible success, Qatar is just laughable.

  2. Scouse for ever

    December 3, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Bothered It makes no diference where its held we couldn’t win it anyway. HAHA

  3. armourysquare

    December 3, 2010 at 11:56 am

    well I guess the only reason England did not win is because Russia need more development in Football. Thus the world Cup shall provide a strong-base for this to go through…other than that no reason as to why Great Britain was not chosen…

  4. ParkLane67

    December 3, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Nice article and totally agree that a rival tournament is the right way to go. It worked to a degree in Motor Racing by forcing change on the FIA. It may be that the threat of a new tournament would be enough to force change to FIFA, but if necessary we should go ahead and play the new tournament. The problem is that we cannot play a tournament without it being licenced by FIFA without risking expulsion – We would have to take the bold move of withdrawing from FIFA altogether or of calling their bluff and risking expulsion. Personally I’m up for it, but I can’t see the FA or PL wanting to risk the possible consequences (UEFA ban for English clubs???)

    • riyu

      May 21, 2012 at 9:17 am

      I support the FIFA rporet because it always happen about match-fixing in poor country since players lacked of finance, equipments, and others support from the federation. It becomes a good opportunity for them when they have chance for int’l football match, they can earn huge amount of money from betting. Don’t blame players or coach, they should find the solutions and restore it to avoid such a shame statement.

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  6. nicky

    December 3, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I keep hearing about the alleged corruption in FIFA . Could someone tell me what form this takes?

  7. Kerresh

    December 3, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    England should not be bitter about this.Russia needs it more.

  8. Craig Wilmann

    December 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Nicky, the fact that there are only 22 voters who decide on the world cup means that each voter agrees deals with the bidding countries in exchange for their vote. This is why England arranged a friendly in Trinidad and why David Beckham set up a football school there- because that is what Jack Warner, the Vice-President, told us to do if we wanted his vote. Of course, it is now apparent that he didn’t vote for us anyway. Now, that isn’t in itself corrupt but is does mean that favours from the bid teams are more important than their comparative strength. Friendlies and football-schools are the only favours that we here about but, given how few voters there are, it is extremely likely that these voters would ask for money in exchange for their vote, hence the corruption. This is what the two suspended fifa officials were suspended for.

    However, even if bribery is not taking place, the fact that officials need to be brown-nosed in order for their vote to be won means that the strength of each bid is irrelevant and this in itself, i believe, is corrupt.

  9. Craig Wilmann

    December 3, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Kerresh, i don’t really see how Russia needs that huge cost when they are worried about a winter famine. England would have definitely made a huge profit as most of the infrastructure is in place and our economy could certainly have done with that.

  10. Mark

    December 3, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Great article, Craig.
    Kerresh. If the selection criteria is based on “need”, then why are the candidates encouraged to spend millions on putting together bids which would be irrelevant.
    Nicky. With a vote for something as huge as the world cup the system needs to be seen to be non-corrupt as well as actually be non-corrupt. How can running the vote for different tournaments simultaneously be anything but a breeding ground for corruption with the obvious potential for candidates to vote for each other’s bids, once again rendering the actual quality of the bids as irrelevant.

  11. Big Earl

    December 3, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Development is a weak arguement. From FIFA’s own analysis both are a gamble and not top revenue generators. If you’re going to be football missionaries then earmark profits for developing nations. Realize that the true power rests with a small number of football nations; who also happened to have been slighted by the same organization that needs them. The Breakaway: imagine British Isles teams, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Belgium, USA, Australia, Korea and Japan saying they’ve had enough, now doing their own. Think how many other nations would be compelled to join? If you’re worried about international player imports, again, who is going to turn down playing in a nation with indoor plumbing and plenty of cash to stay in their FIFA homeland? While everyone gets that warm feeling for helping out a developing nation, remember this is a business, so chose the most profitable method for all. – Big Earl

  12. Patrick Wilmann

    December 5, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Excellent article, totally agree, we should start a campaign to put pressure on the FA to leave FIFA. At the very least we should state now that we will not be sending a team to Quatar because to do so would be utterly stupid. Prehaps the winter olympics should also be held in Quatar as they have never been held there before either. What will be the carbon footprint of the 2022 WC?. FIFA crooks too busy counting their bribe money to care.

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